Understanding Your Home’s Phantom Load

Your Home's Phantom Load

What if we told you your home was full of phantoms? Before you go calling in the paranormal investigators, you should know what kind of ghosts we’re talking about. They don’t make the walls bleed or the bed levitate, but they can still be scary . . . for your electric bill.

What’s a phantom load?

Simply put, your home’s phantom load is a measure of the energy consumed by your appliances when they’re turned off. Most modern electronics don’t really turn off when you hit the power button. Instead, they go into “low power” or “standby” mode, which allows appliances like TVs and computers to boot up faster when you turn them on. You’ll also see phantom load on display with any appliance that features a digital clock, including your oven, microwave and DVR.

This may not seem like a big deal . . . after all, how much power can they possibly waste when they’re turned off? Turns out it’s a lot. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, modern appliances on low power mode waste somewhere in the realm of $4 billion (yep, with a B) of electricity every year, or 12 power plants’ worth.

What does my phantom load cost me?

You can generally expect around 11 percent of your monthly power bill to go towards appliances that are turned off. This comes out to around $100 a year, but it can vary a lot based on the number of power-draining appliances you have. Considering the average household has over twenty of these appliances connected at any given time, that’s a lot of energy and money wasted.

Which appliances have the worst phantom loads?

Generally speaking, anything with a remote control or external power supply is still going to draw substantial power when it’s turned off. Here’s a breakdown of the worst offenders:

  • DVR: This device is a problem because it wastes a lot of power (37 watts, or $39/year) in standby mode, but if you turn it off completely it can’t record. Considering that’s the reason it exists, there’s not much to do about this one.
  • Video game systems: If you’re a gamer, you should factor in about 24 watts of phantom load for each system you have plugged in. That’s $25 a year.
  • Laptop computers: Laptops that are plugged in and fully charged use almost 16 watts even when they’re in sleep mode ($17 a year).
  • Flat screen TV: While TVs don’t use as much power as DVRs, video game systems or laptops in standby mode, most households have more than one TV, and each one draws its own phantom load. Expect to use about six watts, or about $6.50 a year, for each TV on standby.

You can see that these numbers start to add up fast. These are just the heavy hitters, but if you think about every appliance in your home that’s always plugged in, all of those carry a phantom load, too. Everything from your cable box and Roku to Google Home and cell phone chargers cost you money every day without you realizing it.

How can I control my home’s phantom load?

If you live in a tech-heavy household, it’s not surprising to see hundreds of dollars wasted per year in phantom energy usage. Thankfully, though, it’s pretty easy to keep it in check by using a smart power strip.

Smart strips look just like a normal power strip, but have outlets that can turn on and off individually. Special circuitry in the strip detects changes in the electrical load traveling through each outlet, so when you use a remote to turn on your device, the strip senses the increase in load and turns on that outlet. Other outlets on the strip stay off until you need them, saving energy and money.

Other smart strips allow you to group devices together (like your TV, DVD player and soundbar), so when you turn on the main device, the strip supplies power to the secondary devices, too. There are even models equipped with infrared motion detectors to let your strip know to supply power when you’re in the room, and cut the power when you’re not.

National Property Inspections is Here to Save You Money

From energy audits to full inspections revealing the condition of your property, NPI helps you find ways to run your home more efficiently. Call us and book an appointment today.